Despite owning a majority stake in the Seattle Mariners since 1992, retired Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi has never seen the team play in person.
That's a fact that blows my mind every time I'm reminded of it. It's also one that won't change this week, even as the Mariners play two games against the Oakland A's at the Tokyo Dome in Yamauchi's home country of Japan.
The 84-year-old is said to be the only majority owner in major American pro sports history who has never laid eyes on his own team.
"He'll be watching on TV," (Mariners CEO Howard) Lincoln said after a press conference at the Tokyo Dome Hotel. "Given all the years he's been involved with the Mariners, he's really looking forward to see the team play. He's very excited."
Asked if age and health were the primary reasons Yamauchi will not leave his home in Kyoto for the two-hour trip, Lincoln said, "He didn't give me a reason, he just indicated to me he's not going to be here ... Quite frankly, a man of his age and stature doesn't have to explain why he's not here."
Yamauchi reportedly has a John Madden-type aversion to travel, which would explain why he was never in Seattle to watch Ken Griffey slide into home to beat the Yankees in '95, bear witness to any of the 116 regular-season victories in 2001 or see any of the 2,428 hits that his countryman Ichiro has collected on North American soil.
Yamauchi reportedly had a front-row ticket purchased for the Mariners' last planned visit to Japan in March 2003, but that trip was canceled because of the Iraq war.
Now, for whatever reason, Yamauchi is missing perhaps his last great chance to watch the Mariners play. Being 84 is a great excuse to avoid almost any commotion, but we'll still probably always wonder about the popular rumor in Seattle that Yamauchi doesn't even like baseball.
Going 0-for-20 years tends to breed that type of suspicion.
Big BLS H/N: BBTF
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